Middle East affairs expert
As the old saying goes, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. A perfect example illustrating this proverb could be Iran-Lebanon relations. It was Iran that stood with the Lebanese when they faced runaway inflation, depreciation of their currency, the pound, and fuel shortages.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited the Lebanese capital Beirut for the third time on Thursday since becoming Iran’s top diplomat in August 2021. During his latest visit, he met his counterpart Abdallah Bou Habib, Prime Minister Najib Mikati, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.
Iran has always counted on Lebanon as a friend and strategic partner in the face of regional issues, especially in confronting Israel on the frontline. Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, and many Palestinian factions in Lebanon are standing against the occupying regime of Al-Quds, and Iran has clearly stated that it backs them morally and financially. During his latest trip, Amir-Abdollahian renewed such support.
Another important point in Amir Abdollahian’s visit was to consult with senior Lebanese officials to supply fuel and build a 1000MW power plant in the Arab country. In two previous travels, the foreign minister had voiced Iran’s readiness to help Lebanon in this matter.
Fuel shortage in Lebanon has become a national disaster. Skyrocketing gasoline and diesel prices and the long queues of cars outside gas stations have plunged Lebanon into a major crisis. Iran once exported fuel to its Middle East ally with the help of Hezbollah, and tankers crossed into Lebanon from Syria to ease the fuel crisis for a few months.
The fuel delivery caused serious concern among the Americans, prompting them to warn that Lebanon could face new sanctions should it import fuel from Iran again. The Lebanese are still reeling from the sanctions former U.S. president Donald Trump imposed on their country. They are also grappling with rampant financial and banking problems.
The third important task Abdollahian was expected to undertake was calling for unity among the political factions of the March 8, a group close to the resistance movement.
In the past months, electing a new president has been a bone of contention between the two political factions of the Amal Movement, led Berri, and the Free Patriotic Movement, headed by Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil. Iran tries to downplay disputes between them and offers them advice and guidance without interfering in Lebanon’s internal affairs.